America the myth - part 2


Adrian Morgan looks at 'the race' and whether or not the first America's Cup winner was indeed revolutionary
Continued from part 1 yesterday... The news of America's informal 'victory' spread like wildfire. Those who might ordinarily have engaged in a little flutter over the Yankee schooner shied away. In those days huge sums were wagered on yacht racing. In one 224-mile Channel race some £50,000 changed hands. Stevens was probably more worried about the Laverock race that he cared to admit for when he did challenge the Squadron is was to be a schooners-only race, over an offshore course and in over 6 knots of wind. There were no takers. He then made it known that he was willing to race any 'cutter, schooner or vessel of any other rig', but the stake was to be an outrageous 10,000 guineas, more than double the cost of her building: 'a staggerer', according to James Steers' huge even by the standards of a notorious gambler like Stevens. Historians have tended to read this as evidence of Stevens' faith in his schooner. If Bell's Life's account of the Laverock race is to be believed, may it not have been designed to frighten away competition, leaving Stevens to claim, as the papers would say, that British yachtsmen were, indeed, running scared and allow him to return home reputation intact? Not surprisingly there was again no response. For two weeks America lay at Cowes, sails furled. Hopes of a race with Joseph Weld's Alarm, for a purse of $5000, came to naught and the British press, sensing a good story, were scathing. The Times wrote: 'Most of us have seen the agitation which the appearance of a sparrow-hawk on the horizon creates among a flock of wood-pigeons or skylarks when, unsuspecting all danger and engaged in airy flights of playing about over the fallows, they all at once come down to the ground and

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